by Colin Brady
from Signs of the Times No. 72 - Jan 2019

The place of food rightly occupies a recurring and important place in everyday life.

In the United Kingdom, concerns about the overwhelming demand on foodbanks, the increasing need for community schemes to tackle holiday hunger, the effects of climate change on agricultural production, and the challenges of global trade have occupied minds over the past few months. In the last century we had massive appeals to deal with hunger in Africa, Bangladesh, and elsewhere around the developing world. For the past decade we have been preoccupied with the hunger of our neighbours down the road. 

Christians Aware, a long-established network of people with a deep concern for justice, peace, and development issues, comes to the debate about global and national hunger and food needs with a wealth of experience. This book, with some thirty-five contributions to its 230 pages or so, introduces the reader to the concerns and insights of many committed people. Veganism, the history of allotments, the ownership of seed technologies, family farming, and engineering tips for getting water to isolated communities; the range is certainly wide and insights are there to be appreciated. 

Time passes quickly and issues of food security and availability have moved very fast not least over the past two years as the United Kingdom looks to a new relationship with its trading partners. Brexit is an absence in this book, and perhaps reasonably so when there is little clarity about the outcomes, but it is not the only indicator of the inevitable time-lag between writing and production. 

A piece on British farming in the global context would have been insightful at the time of writing, but that was clearly some time ago. One paragraph looks towards 2010, by when it was anticipated that 5% of the UK’s transport needs would be met by biofuels. The UK biofuel market has changed a lot since then. Indeed, the whole global context has been ruptured by economic recession, deepening climate change worries, and political turmoil. 

The history and principles of Fairtrade are explained, although I struggled with the equivalency that is offered to other schemes, including the standards adopted by some companies. This must have been written before the impact of changes by Sainsbury’s and Cadbury to their commitment to an independently accredited standard were fully understood. 

An article by Professor John Wibberley shreds the myth that massive commercial farms will ever be able to supplant family farms in feeding the world’s increasing population. Some resources for worship come towards the end, followed by publications and organisations that might be of interest.

The book includes many hyperlinks to websites but it must be unlikely that anyone is going to accurately type 125 characters to arrive at the right source. Perhaps not unrelated to this peculiarity is the fact that I couldn’t find it on the Christians Aware website among their other publications from 2017. [Ed - There is now a ‘New book - Just food’ button on the home page].

£12 seems a reasonable price for this publication, although I would probably hunt about online if I was looking for resources and material on this topic. 

Colin Brady is Social Justice Programme Manager with the Diocese of Salisbury